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Life with ARTSTEEL: Finding the everyday charm of industrial materials

Can a material traditionally reserved for construction use manage to find its place in our everyday life?

Beloved by architects and engineers for its functionality and versatility, weathering steel ARTSTEEL adorns major building and facades all over Japan, including Tokyo’s Kijichoji Station. As an innovative solution to steel degradation, the material coats rust with rust, making it sturdy enough even for bridges. Yet, it’s also a product with a unique and elegant look, made with delicate craftsmanship – something that should naturally resonate as part of both product and interior design.

Tokyo’s Kijichoji Station

To allow the creator community to get acquainted with and embrace the material, we launched a global product design award through competition platform AWRD (What is AWRD?) – and along with it, a slew of industry events. Reframing the material through a creator’s lens, we were able to shine a spotlight on the aesthetic value of ARTSTEEL, transforming it into elegant, everyday objects.

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Talks and Meetups: Creators Meet the Material 

We kicked off the ARTSTEEL project by unveiling the material at a Material Meetup. Hosted by FabCafe, Material Meetup is an event series in which manufacturers, craftspeople and creators gather under the theme of materials. See video of Material Meetup Kyoto

Material Meetup Tokyo

Team members from Front presenting ART STEEL at Material Meetup Tokyo

Before allowing creators to test-drive ARTSTEEL for themselves in the global product design award, we wanted community members to be introduced to and get acquainted with the material. Samples of ARTSTEEL were provided onsite, and Front Inc.’s representative Masayuki Fujii was present to speak on the functionality and charm of the material, as well as its applications in the lifestyle sector. 

To help creators and design connoisseurs better understand the material in the context of lifestyle and product design, we organized a talk and showroom event at FabCafe MTRL on everyday objects – led by Takahiro Shibata, former & Premium editor and renowned tastemaker, and appointed judge for the ARTSTEEL award. With his experience and expertise in the lifestyle sector, Takahiro Shibata was able to play the role of both guru and ARTSTEEL spokesperson. A meeting point for the local creative community, our FabCafe MTRL talk events not only help to better connect creators with materials and products, but also to industry influencers like Shibata.

The AWRD: Global Ideas on Modern ‘Wabi-Sabi’

For the ‘Life with ARTSTEEL’ global product design award, the material was recast for the lifestyle context. Project creative director Nozomi Ito chose to take on a ‘wabi-sabi’ theme for the award – a uniquely Japanese aesthetic concept that foregrounds ‘imperfect beauty’, befitting a material that intentionally highlights rust. Since ‘wabi-sabi’ objects have taken on a global appreciation in recent years, such a theme could be effective in broadening the award and material’s international appeal.

Up to 97 entries of ideas from all over the world were collected through AWRD, varying from household objects to personal accessories. Christoffer Jevring & Daniele Caldari took home the Gold Prize for their design, the Paume Lamp.

Up to 97 entries of ideas were collected through AWRD.

Gold Prize: Paume Lamp by Christoffer Jevring & Daniele Caldari

For home or commercial use, the distinct presence of this LED floor and table lamp can lend its character to the environment while maintaining harmony with the surroundings. Utilizing the bespoke, individualistic nature of ARTSTEEL, different finishes may be used for the lamp body to yield different expressions.

Silver Prize: ART STEEL-inspired accessories by AoHouse

Unique, personal accessories that originate from metal scraps: AoHouse breathes life into the material parts that had no product value originally. Just like the material’s one-off nature, no one shape is identical to another with these personal trinkets.

Special Prize: Rust Sabi Chari by Nyokki

A rusty, discarded bicycle is reborn with Sabitali/Sabichari. Typically shunned and thrown away, Sabichari embraces the rusted look on bikes through ARTSTEEL – reframing rust as not deterioration but individuality and expression. Sabichari is also a sustainable framework, paving the way to upcycle and share-cycle waste bicycles.

Behind the AWRD

The global design competition was established through our very own online award platform AWRD. With a community of 30,000 creators and a steady infrastructure, the platform streamlines the awards process, allowing organizers such as ARTSTEEL makers Front Inc. to easily manage their events online – from the creation of a bilingual Japanese/English landing page and submission call-outs to even the appointment of judges. 

Through AWRD, appropriate judges were appointed for ‘Life with ARTSTEEL’. Each judge had his or her own area of expertise. Industrial designer and CEO of Feel Good Creation Inc. Miyuki Tamai was selected for her technical expertise. With the potential of commercializing the winning works, Masaki Oda from Isetan Mitsukoshi was selected to bring a sales perspective to the table. Former & Premium magazine executive director Takahiro Shibata was also brought on to evaluate taste and relevance. Lastly, as a representative for ARTSTEEL, Front Inc.’s Masayaki Fujii completed the panel.

Businesses can start a free trial and set up a campaign on AWRD today. Email the AWRD team for a free trial here: awrd@loftwork.com.

Read case study: The Art of Steel: creator community reshapes the industrial material for everyday beauty

Loftwork Inc.

Loftwork is the parent company of FabCafe and a creative company dedicated to making a positive impact through design with a global community of innovators. Aside from providing innovative design solutions to global clients across various industries, Loftwork also operates a number of owned services and platforms. Learn more.

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